Bent Rail Brewery Begins Brewing, Awarded Zagat Recognition at Same Time

Bent Rail Brewery Begins Brewing, Awarded Zagat Recognition at Same Time

   by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

It’s said that good things come to those who wait. For people patiently passing time until Bent Rail Brewery actually started producing beers, the wait has been long; there have been times when they were almost there, only to dash the hopes of those craft beer fans in So-Bro (South of Broad Ripple in Indianapolis).

Hallelujah, the day has come! Bent rail has three very nice beers of their own on right now. Head brewer Shawn Byrnes, previously the head brewer for Ram, and before that a brewer at Fountain Square, Upland, and Lexington Avenue Brewery in Asheville, has produced a nice crop of first efforts.

The Golden Spike is yet another in a long list of golden ales being made this year, but this one is a bit bigger in the mouth and nose than most. It is an excellent entry beer, capable of bringing non-craft beer drinkers into the fold. Shawn is planning on doing so fruit infusions of this flagship, so there is much to look forward to here.

Although they opened in early 2015, Bent Rail Brewery at 5301 Winthrop Avenue in Indianapolis has just now started producing beer. They have always made great food, and now they are starting to get recognition for it. image credit: Bent Rail Brewery

George McClarnon, the assistant brewer and long time Bent Rail stalwart, is more partial to the American IPA they are producing, called India Hopolis. This Chinook forward beer is an balanced version of the IPA that will tingle the tongue of the hop lovers out there. My favorite on this day was the Cloudy Illusion, a traditional German Hefeweissen that pours hazy as can be, and has a huge amount of banana ester and clove phenolics. The hefeweissen is one of those beer styles that gives you a good indication of how a brewery is doing, and the Cloudy tells me that we have some good things to look forward to.

The 15 BBL brewhouse has several 30 and 15 BBL fermenters, so lagers are a possibility, and though they are serving off five brite tanks now (in my considered opinion, one of the best ways to serve your own beer), they have plans to start kegging and push their production up so that they have eight or nine of their own beers on at any one time. They have ten taps, so one is definitely being saved for the obligatory cider.

Shawn was brought in by owners Derrick Means and Craig Baker about six months ago, and it has taken a while to complete the brew house – this is why the first beers are coming out just now. George and Derrick put most of the Craftwerk, steam-jacketed brew house together by themselves, but they need Shawn’s tweaking to get the final bits done and put the steam system on a running basis. Shawn, who has won medals at the state and national level, described the brewery as “An American style brewery who pulls inspiration from around the world and will reflect the seasons in our beer selections. It is great to open a brand new brewery from the start. Not only that, it truly is an honor to be a part of the local community and the Indiana beer community.”

Zagat Reviews and rating have been around since 1979, but Bent Rail is only one of a few establishments in Indianapolis to be recognized (along with The Taco Shop, Stella, The Garden Table and a few others). Image credit: Zagat

Bent Rail’s system is large enough to accommodate pushing beer out the door, but Shawn and George first want to work on increasing the styles offered, including higher gravity beers and darker beers. All in all, the beer front seems to be in good hands. But that isn’t all that is going on at Bent Rail.

Head chef Ian Stricklin has some magic up his sleeves as well. Bent Rail recently hosted the local version of the national competition of Culinary Fight Club. In the burger category, Ian bested all comers in the judges’ opinion, and since this was an official event for the World Food Championships, his win garnered him a golden ticket to the final in Gulf Shores and Orange Breach, Alabama in November. Good luck to Bent rail in that competition as well.

Yet… the embarrassment of riches continues. Based on the number and positivity of the rating that Bent rail has received, Zagat International awarded them official recognition. It may only be noted by a Zagat sticker on the front door, but to foodies, this means quite a lot. In response to the recent accolades, Ian said, “It is an honor to be able to work alongside Chef Craig Baker and to be a part of this amazing team. We are addicted to developing and honing our crafts, and there will be much more to come in the future.”

If you want a chance to try out chef Ian’s recipes, stop in the brewery for a hefewesissen and some of Ian’s magic, or you can try his burgers and many others at the 2017 Building Tomorrow’s Indy Burger Battle, presented by Red Gold and held on Georgia Street in Indianapolis on August 5th.

Even if it has taken a while to get the beer flowing, it looks like Bent Rail Brewery has now earned their name, while at the exact same time winning for themselves a stellar culinary reputation. Good beer and good food in the heart of So-Bro; sounds like a reason for a visit.


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